With quarantines mandated worldwide, more people are online than ever before. Whether for work, entertainment, or staying in touch, demands on home Wi-Fi are straining network limits. In Seattle, internet traffic rose 30% in February alone; nationwide, it’s up about 20%.
That spike in online activity heightens the risk of service problems, data breaches, and computer viruses. Home networks often lack the infrastructure to support this increased activity, as anyone who’s dropped a Zoom call or experienced a TV show buffering is aware. The pandemic also presents ideal conditions for hackers and cyberterrorists: Hordes of anxious people online make easy marks. One cybersecurity firm discovered a 667% rise in phishing attacks. Breakdowns and breaches can quickly overtake us if we’re not careful.
Making sure tech operates efficiently and securely during social distancing remains a major concern for most Americans. It’s a lifeline for many of us — to our work, to our friends and family, and to the world around us.
To protect this valuable asset, we have to quarantine the problems that arise from our increased usage during this pandemic. Here’s how we can do that.
1. Control access and transmission points.
We stay inside a lot these days. We practice social distancing and wear masks when we go out. We wash our hands more than we ever did before to minimize transmission at critical points of contact.
When it comes to data security, we should do the same thing. Whether it’s your Wi-Fi network or your email account, there are multiple points of entry for problems.
This might take the form of adopting a password security solution like LastPass or updating antivirus software like Norton. Your network can easily be hacked, so investing in security like Plume’s AI Security can proactively protect you from hackers and be able to separate devices that are compromised, preventing the threat from spreading to the rest of your network.
Securing your email with additional layers of encryption and multiple authentication points — as well as following commonsense advice — will go a long way toward keeping your account safe. The same goes for protecting your smartphone.
2. Protect your vulnerable assets.
In addition to taking special care of our physical health these days, we should take care of our digital health. Take some time to identify how you store your most sensitive information, from bank accounts to personal health data. Keep in mind that with so much of our lives wired to networks, there may be more exposed data than you think.
Once you’ve catalogued these assets, develop specialized plans to protect them. For bank accounts, see if it’s possible to secure your account with multi-factor authentication. If your bank doesn’t offer this online service, consider investing in an app like Duo that offers this prevention against hacking. Step up your credit awareness with Credit Karma or another similar service. Now is the time to be vigilant about fraudulent transactions.
It’s not just your money that should concern you — your identity and reputation might be at stake. If that worries you, consider a reputation-monitoring service. Even setting up a Google Alert to flag unusual new content about you on the web can save a lot of headaches later.
3. Conduct regular testing.
Without detecting infection, we can’t begin to mount an effective response to a threat, whether we’re discussing disease control or maintaining a functional home network.
To gauge the performance of your technology, you should conduct regular audits of your hardware, software, and internet service. Keeping tabs on their performance can help you optimize your home office and avoid a frustrating logjams. Even a simple five-step evaluation will suffice for most homes.
You’ll want to be especially careful to test for malware by using a free virus-scanning program like Avast. Running a sweep of your system with this tool will diagnose problems and remedy them. Staying current with patches and system updates during these times is imperative.
4. Stay updated with the latest information.
During this pandemic, the data on the ground is always changing. New hotspots crop up. Scientists make new discoveries about the virus. Government officials are legislating on the spot, trying to keep up with all the latest developments.
It pays to stay current not only with what’s going on with COVID-19, but also with what cyberthreats, tech problems, and internet service issues are out there. Following an information security blog, or even checking a trusted news source for reporting on tech issues during quarantine, will help keep you in the know during these challenging times.
As we shelter in place, it’s not just the novel coronavirus that we should protect ourselves against. We also need to quarantine our technology. In many cases, it’s our only connection to the world outside. By treating its integrity like we do our own health, we can be sure we aren’t threatened by online contagions in addition to medical pathologies. Taking a few simple precautions can help ensure that we stay safe — both virtually and in real life.